Psychological Safety in Athletic Team Environments


  • Kelsie Saxe University of Tennessee
  • Robin Hardin University of Tennessee


team culture, fear, Safety, team performance


The concept of psychological safety has historically been examined in the context of the social and organizational sciences with limited attention in the sport domain. Psychological safety is relevant to the athletic team environment and needs to be explored theoretically and empirically in this setting. Psychologically safe environments increase learning behavior, performance, communication, innovation, job attitudes, and individual well-being. These are all imperative outcomes for successful sport teams as well as supportive coaching and administrative staffs. A team with high levels of psychological safety demonstrates high levels of trust and respect throughout the hierarchy. There is an appreciation for input, an allowance for experimentation, and a collaborative approach where members find the best solution to a problem within a given context. A team with low levels of psychological safety is riddled with fear, conformity, and accentuated power distance. The leader exhibits unpredictable behavior and takes an authoritarian approach in which subordinates strive to please the leader rather than explore their highest potential. This environment can stifle well-being and/or performance and perpetuate future environments with low levels of psychological safety. Additionally, the outcomes of psychological safety demonstrate that well-being is an avenue through which performance is achieved, rather than these being mutually exclusive outcomes.

Author Biography

Robin Hardin, University of Tennessee

Dr. Robin Hardin is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee. 


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